“I asked her name. ‘Madonna,’ she replied….”

In 1978, Richard Maschal of the Charlotte Observer visited Durham to cover the American Dance Festival. In a class of leotard-clad students, he recalled later, “One stood out.  She had a beautiful face, the image, I immediately thought, of a Renaissance madonna….We sat on a bench, and I asked her name. ‘Madonna,’ she replied…. She seemed remarkably self-possessed for a teenager and incredibly self-absorbed….

“She [said] she found the styles of dress in Durham stodgy and conservative. She had a rather low opinion, too of the clubs and other sources of entertainment….”

Could Madonna have found Durham so boring that she would choose Charlotte over the Triangle for her first-ever tour stop in the Carolinas? Surely not!

 

Durham lit up by Buck Duke’s ‘mysterious energy’

100 years ago today: James B. Duke’s Southern Power Co., forerunner of Duke Power Co., brings electricity to Durham.

Among the bedazzled is a reporter for the Durham Recorder: “From the water driven generators on the Rocky Creek below Great Falls, S.C., the mysterious energy flashed over the lines or tower to tower, over hill and valley, through the fields of ripening corn and the forest in which the leaves are turning red and gold into the sub-station located on the hill just beyond the Pearl Cotton Mill.”

The 175 miles from Rocky Creek to Durham is touted as the longest distance over which electric power has ever been transmitted.

Should Raleigh, Durham be chasing ‘creative class’?

“[A] test has been done by Mel Gray, who teaches eco­nom­ics at the Uni­ver­sity of St. Thomas, and the results cast doubt on the idea that a flour­ish­ing artis­tic envi­ron­ment will cause eco­nomic growth….

“Gray told me, ‘I spent a sab­bat­i­cal in North Car­olina, and both Raleigh and Durham have estab­lished these Offices of Cre­ativ­ity, and they’re all doing this with­out a huge amount [of], if any, evi­dence that it makes that big a dif­fer­ence.’ ”

— From “The Fall of the Creative Class” by Frank Bures in Thirty Two Magazine

 

Chapel Hill to Time: We’re not snoozing!

We…  object to the reference to Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh as “a sleepy corner of eastern Carolina.” Wake up! Chapel Hill has long been known as the “Intellectual Center of the South.”
Get out of your concrete office and come down to visit modern, industrial North Carolina.
MARVIN BRODY
SONNY EVANS
Chapel Hill, N.C.
— Letter to the editor of Time magazine, February 4, 1957
In later life, Sonny would become better known as Eli — and as author of “The Provincials.”

Pigmeat Markham’s mainstream moment

“[‘Laugh-In’ guest] Sammy Davis Jr., decked out in an oversized judicial wig and robe, introduced a courtroom sketch by strutting across the stage on his Cuban heels, waving his arms and chanting, ‘Here come de judge! Here come de judge! Here come de judge!’ — a line popularized by [Durham-born] black comedian Dewey ‘Pigmeat’ Markham….

” ‘Here come de judge!’ not only achieved a nationwide circulation exceeding Markham’s wildest dreams, but also earned a niche in the glossary of show-biz phraseology….

“Markham had spent decades on the vaudeville ‘Chitlin Circuit’ along with such greats as Moms Mabley and Mantan Moreland, occasionally heading downtown to perform before an integrated audience at Minsky’s Burlesque…. Only in the 1960s did he start showing up with any frequency on ‘mainstream’ television, and only during a one-year ‘Laugh-In’ gig did he ever appear as a TV-series regular.”

— From “From Beautiful Downtown Burbank: A Critical History of  ‘Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In,’ 1968-1973″ by Hal Erickson (2000)

A second “Laugh-In” catchphrase, “Look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls,” also originated with Markham. He died in 1981 at age 77.

Durham put him ‘In a Sentimental Mood’

“We had played a big dance in a tobacco warehouse, and afterwards a friend of mine, an executive in the North Carolina Mutual Insurance Company [treasurer Edward Merrick], threw a party for us [at the N.C. Mutual Building in Durham].

“I was playing piano when another one of our friends had some trouble with two chicks. To pacify them, I composed this there and then, with one chick standing on each side of the piano.”

— Duke Ellington, as quoted by Stanley Dance in his liner notes to “The Ellington Era, 1927-1940, Vol. 2″

According to jazzstandards.com, ” ‘In a Sentimental Mood’ enjoyed a wave of popularity in the 1930s…. [It] was the theme song for no less than nine radio shows.”

Pictured: celluloid watch fob with image of N.C. Mutual Building.

 

Durham parade ousts Klan float in name of ‘harmony’

On this day in  1928: At the request of American Legion officials, Durham police remove a Ku Klux Klan float from line in the annual Armistice Day parade. The float bears the letters “KKK” and two white-draped figures representing “Purity” and “Honesty.”

“Since our post is composed of men of all classes and all religious faiths ” a Legion official tells the Durham Morning Herald, “participation by the Klan in our parade would throw the entire picture out of harmony.”

 

Roger Maris no fan of N.C. sportswriters

“Roger’s long torturous season [1961, in which he hit a record 61 homers] was over…He had committed to a traveling, postseason home-run-derby exhibition that also featured Harmon Killebrew and Jim Gentile…. He had a miserable experience. Again, the press was at the heart of his problems. Gentile recalls:

” ‘We went to Wilson, Raleigh-Durham, Greensboro and a couple of other places….  After spending a whole season being given a hard time by hostile reporters in New York, having a bunch of new writers on his back was tough for him. He told them, “If I had known that you were going to ask me the same old questions, I would have brought a tape with me.”

” ‘In Wilson we had a real nice crowd, but then what Roger said wound up in the papers and it cut us down a little. They didn’t write anything nice about us after that ….

” ‘Poor Roger couldn’t go anywhere. He’d step out of the hotel and people were chasing him… I thought of Roger when I saw what happened to the Beatles.’ ”

— From “Roger Maris: Baseball’s Reluctant Hero” by Tom Clavin and Danny Peary (2010)

Maris died in 1985. Killebrew, whose only minor league experience came with  the Charlotte Hornets in 1956, died last week.  Gentile, 76, lives in Edmond, Okla.

Governor exempts link dump from hiring freeze

— “Ruth’s hit carried at least 600 feet…  certainly a record that will stand for all time in Winston-Salem.”

— Amnesia? A faked death? Or what?

— “A preservationist by nature” from Durham blows his Maine chance.

Scavenged from Monitor repair job — and turned into a doll cradle!

— So what comes after ZZZ?

Gallup-ing Jehosaphat! A happiness recession?

Unsettling news indeed: The “well-being” of North Carolinians reportedly ranks 36th in the nation. Gallup’s composite index weighs 20 factors, such as stress, obesity, job satisfaction, nighttime safety, happiness…. Happiness? Tar Heels come up short in happiness?

Why, it hasn’t been that long ago — the ’70s, actually — that John Shelton Reed was explaining why no less than 90 percent of North Carolinians considered their state “the best, all things considered.” In sum: nice neighbors, nice weather. (Among the dozen other states studied, Massachusetts came in last at 40 percent.)

Mt. Airy native Donna Fargo even claimed the title of  “Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A.”

So what happened? In the intervening four decades, have newcomers from Massachusetts been stealthily U-Hauling their  gloom and naysaying past the interstate welcome centers? Or are 21st century North Carolinians simply unhappy, for whatever reason, in a state they may still consider the best?

Gallup asked, “Did you experience feelings of happiness during a lot of the day yesterday?” For reasons I’m sure make sense in the opinion-harvesting community, the results are presented by congressional district. Thus, North Carolina’s happiest districts are Four (Durham, Chapel Hill) and Nine (Charlotte region minus Charlotte), both at 90 percent “yes.” Its unhappiest district: Seven (Wilmington, part of Fayetteville) at 84 percent.

Finally, this caught my eye: In response to “Are you satisfied with the city or area where you live?” the 94 percent yes in North Carolina’s District Four was topped only by the 95 percent yes in California’s District 48.

Curse you, Laguna Beach.